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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book Review: The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner


Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Dial; 1 edition (September 17, 2009)

A stirring tale of magic and revolution- fans of The Red Necklace won't want to miss it.

The year is 1794. With his beloved Sido safely in England and the Reign of Terror at its height, mysterious Yann returns to revolutionary France to smuggle out aristocratic refugees who will otherwise face the guillotine. But while the two are apart, Yann’s Gypsy origins prejudice Sido’s guardian against their marriage, thwarting their longed-for reunion. When Sido is kidnapped under strange circumstances, however, Yann must use all his strength and courage to outwit the evil Count Kalliovski, rescue Sido, and help save all of France.

As she did in The Red Necklace and the award-winning I, Coriander, Sally Gardner spins an epic tale that combines a vivid sense of history, characters full of Dickensian drama and fascination, and a sizzling adventure with touches of magic and romance.

It’s 1794 and the French Revolution rages on in Paris; each day more and more victims falling claim to the ravenous jaws of the guillotine. While most of the “decadent aristocracy” have long ago fled from the city, others have not been so fortunate. But during this dark time, hope is not all lost. Rumors have begun to circulate in Paris- hushed murmurings about a man, one they call The Silver Blade. Word has it that before the Revolutionaries even know what hits them, The Silver Blade swoops in and snatches his clients out of thin air, leaving only the small silver blade of a child’s toy guillotine in their place. For those trapped in Paris and desperate to reach the safety of England, they will do anything to redeem his services. But his identity remains a frustrating secret to both authorities and the aristocracy. As for Yann Margoza? Well, that’s just the way he likes it.

THE SILVER BLADE recasts the age old struggle of good versus evil in this extraordinary sequel to its predecessor, THE RED NECKLACE. In a time of tragedy and self-sacrifice, a new hero emerges. He is
Yann, a man of seemingly low birth, but with the courage and moral character of a thousand great men. Yann leads a double life, performing in a theater by night and rescuing others from the cruel steel of the guillotine by day. A "tightrope walker over the Valley of Death”, Yann consistently puts his life on the line, making him a powerful protagonist and an appealing hero. Touches of magic and romance also run rampant throughout the novel, creating an interesting dimension to Yann’s character and an added tension to an already fast-paced plot.

I picked up THE SILVER BLADE at the library on a whim, completely unaware of what I was in store for. Upon realizing it was a sequel to THE RED NECKLACE, and a powerful one to boot, I had to rush out and get it’s predecessor. I devoured both books in two days. The drama and passion in Sally Gardener’s prose was
dizzyingly irresistible for me. The added bonus of sharply penned characters like the dwarf Tetu and the humor of oddities like Iago the talking parrot, added a deeper level of connection to the story for me as well. Add in the horror of the guillotine and the threat of the worst kind of evil roaming around Paris’ catacombs, and you’ve got one sizzling adventure seeped in drama, magic and history.Count Kallivoski, a truly evil and deplorable creature, was terrifying- I feared for Yann and Sido, the woman of Yann's affection and Kallivoski's cruel desires.

**Exciting side note for fans of this series: I read on Sally Gardner's blog that Dominic West, actor in the television show, The Wire has bought film rights for THE RED NECKLACE and THE SILVER BLADE!

Sally Gardner grew up and still lives in London. Being dyslexic, she did not learn to read or write until she was fourteen and had been thrown out of several schools, labeled unteachable, and sent to a school for maladjusted children. Despite this, she gained a degree with highest honors at a leading London art college, followed by a scholarship to a theater school, and then went on to become a very successful costume designer, working on some notable productions. After the births of twin daughters and a son, she started first to illustrate and then to write picture books and chapter books, usually with fairytale- or otherwise magical subject matter. She has been called 'an idiosyncratic genius' by London’s Sunday Times.

Purchase The Silver Blade at Amazon.com.

To learn more about Sally Gardner and her books, Visit the author's Official Website and Blog.


Sandy said...

Oh wow I have to read both of these books now, you make them sound so fantastic ^_^.

Book Butterfly (Kim) said...

Hey Sandy- they really knocked my socks off. I had never heard of them before either. I love those little finds that come out of the blue! I hope you like them if you read them

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

I love that this book compelled you. Bravo!